Electro Trail Europe (ELECTE) 2023 kicks off at Brightsite Plasmalab on Chemelot


From 5 to 16 June, Industryandenergy.eu and VoltaChem will join a group of students and young professionals exploring a range of innovative electrification and electrochemical projects in European industry. This inspiring journey provides a unique opportunity to experience the forefront of the industrial electric revolution. The group travels by train and visits various locations in Europe, with the first stop being the Brightsite Plasmalab on Chemelot.

On June 5, the Electro Trail Europe started with a visit to the Brightsite Plasmalab on Chemelot. This laboratory is where Brightsite partners UM, TNO, and Sitech Services, together with students and companies, conduct research on the application of plasma technology in the chemical industry. Using plasma reactors, methane can be efficiently converted into valuable building blocks such as acetylene and ethylene, in combination with hydrogen. This innovative approach offers a promising alternative to conventional processes and contributes to the transition to sustainable chemistry. The Brightsite Plasmalab also plays a crucial role in the transformation of Chemelot and anticipates the changing needs of the chemical sector.

Chemelot Transition: Sustainable Feedstocks and Logistic Challenges

Arnold Stokking kicked off the event with an introduction to the Chemelot transition strategy. Stokking, Managing Director of Brightsite and a strong believer of plasma as game changing technology, emphasized the changes that need to be achieved between 2030 and 2050 regarding the transition from fossil to circular and biogenic feedstocks. Logistic challenges were discussed in the replacement of, for example, naphtha with plastics, which need to be delivered by truck and through waterways. The layout of the Chemelot site was also presented, including the port of Stein and the train station in Sittard, with a retrospective on the development of the Chemelot site and the significant logistic challenges in the transition of the chemical cluster. One of the logistic challenges is the infrastructure for electricity needed to achieve the required CO2 reduction by 2030-2050. In other words, as explained by Stokking, there is a need to accelerate the successful transition of the large volumes consumed and produced at the Chemelot site.

Brightsite’s Plasmalab: Innovative Plasma Technology for Chemical Conversions

Hans Linden, Program Manager at Brightsite,  presented the Brightsite strategy and the role of the Plasmalab within itsprogram line ‘Emission Reduction through Recycling and Deployment of Renewable Feedstocks.’ Linden mentioned that several proven technologies form the basis of the Brightsite Plasmalab. For example, the Hüls reactor is used for the conversion of methane to acetylene and serves as the basis for the plasma program, with three steps to prove and improve the technology: 1) laboratory scale, 2) small-scale setup, 3) pilot installation. The goal is to demonstrate and prove the production of acetylene and hydrogen in the first generation and subsequently improve the reactor to directly produce ethylene in later generations.

Linden also explained the monolith process for the formation of carbon and hydrogen through plasma, for which a demonstration installation has already been developed and built. Another application of plasma is the Birkeland-Eyde process for converting nitrogen and oxygen into NOx and then HNO3. Finally, Linden explained why the formation of acetylene and hydrogen is preferred over the formation of carbon and hydrogen using conventional processes. The conversion of nitrogen is a future development in the Plasmalab. Of course, a tour of the Plasmalab itself with a small demonstration of a plasma reactor could not be missed.

Developments at Chemelot

The program concluded with a presentation by Frank Schaap, Director of Business Development & Marketing at Chemelot. He gave a concise presentation on the development of Chemelot and the new companies establishing themselves there. Special attention was given to companies active in waste recycling, ranging from mechanical recycling to chemical recycling through processes such as waste gasification and plastic recycling. An important point emphasized was that these companies must fit perfectly within the production chain and the integration of Chemelot. The day ended with a tour of the Chemelot site.

Electro Trail Europe (Electe23)

From 5 to 16 June, Industryandenergy.eu and VoltaChem are participating in a group of students and young professionals visiting a series of innovative electrification and electrochemical projects in the European industry. The group traveled by train from the Brightsite Plasmalab on Chemelot to BASF Ludwigshafen in Germany, where they will, among other things, observe a pilot electric cracker. In the second week, the group will visit Örnsköldsvik, Sweden, where Ørsted, together with Liquid Wind, is constructing a large-scale facility for the electrochemical production of fuel from CO2 and hydrogen, called eMethanol. The Trail concludes in Copenhagen with various visits, including the Solid Oxide Electrolysis Cell test center of technology developer Topsoe.